Have Americans' working habits gotten out of control? Do we spend too many hours confined to our office cubicles? In "The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich," author Timothy Ferriss argues that Americans need to step out of the rat race, stop obsessing about work, learn to value their time and start saving for retirement. He advises becoming part of the "New Rich," who have learned to master time and mobility and liberate themselves from the traditional cubicle job. Here's an excerpt:
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These individuals have riches just as we say that we “have a fever,” when really the fever has us.
—Seneca (4 b.c.–a.d. 65)
I also have in mind that seemingly wealthy, but most terribly impoverished class of all, who have accumulated dross, but know not how to use it, or get rid of it, and thus have forged their own golden or silver fetters.
—Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862)
1:00 a.m. CST, 30,000 feet over Las Vegas
His friends, drunk to the point of speaking in tongues, were asleep. It was just the two of us now in first-class. He extended his hand to introduce himself, and an enormous—Looney Tunes enormous—diamond ring appeared from the ether as his fingers crossed under my reading light.
Mark was a legitimate magnate. He had, at different times, run practically all the gas stations, convenience stores, and gambling in South Carolina. He confessed with a half smile that, in an average trip to Sin City, he and his fellow weekend warriors might lose an average of $500,000 to $1,000,000—each. Nice.
He sat up in his seat as the conversation drifted to my travels, but I was more interested in his astounding record of printing money.
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“So, of all your businesses, which did you like the most?”
The answer took less than a second of thought.
“None of them.”
He explained that he had spent more than 30 years with people he didn’t like to buy things he didn’t need. Life had become a succession of trophy wives—he was on lucky number three—expensive cars, and other empty bragging rights. Mark was one of the living dead.
This is exactly where we don’t want to end up.
Apples and Oranges: A Comparison
So, what makes the difference? What separates the New Rich, characterized by options, from the Deferrers (D), those who save it all for the end only to find that life has passed them by?
It begins at the beginning. The New Rich can be separated from the crowd based on their goals, which reflect very distinct priorities and life philosophies.
Note how subtle differences in wording completely change the necessary actions for fulfilling what at a glance appear to be similar goals. These are not limited to business owners. Even the first, as I will show later, applies to employees.
D: To work for yourself.
NR: To have others work for you.
D: To work when you want to.
NR: To prevent work for work’s sake, and to do the minimum necessary for maximum effect (“minimum effective load”).
D: To retire early or young.
NR: To distribute recovery periods and adventures (mini-retirements) throughout life on a regular basis and recognize that inactivity is not the goal. Doing that which excites you is.
D: To buy all the things you want to have.
NR: To do all the things you want to do, and be all the things you want to be. If this includes some tools and gadgets, so be it, but they are either means to an end or bonuses, not the focus.
D: To be the boss instead of the employee; to be in charge.
NR: To be neither the boss nor the employee, but the owner. To own the trains and have someone else ensure they run on time.
D: To make a ton of money.
NR: To make a ton of money with specific reasons and defined dreams to chase, timelines and steps included. What are you working for?
D: To have more.
NR: To have more quality and less clutter. To have huge financial reserves but recognize that most material wants are justifications for spending time on the things that don’t really matter, including buying things and preparing to buy things. You spent two weeks negotiating your new Infiniti with the dealership and got $10,000 off? That’s great. Does your life have a purpose? Are you contributing anything useful to this world, or just shuffling papers, banging on a keyboard, and coming home to a drunken existence on the weekends?
D: To reach the big pay-off, whether IPO, acquisition, retirement, or other pot of gold.
NR: To think big but ensure payday comes every day: cash flow first, big payday second.
D: To have freedom from doing that which you dislike.
NR: To have freedom from doing that which you dislike, but also the freedom and resolve to pursue your dreams without reverting to work for work’s sake (W4W). After years of repetitive work, you will often need to dig hard to find your passions, redefine your dreams, and revive hobbies that you let atrophy to near extinction. The goal is not to simply eliminate the bad, which does nothing more than leave you with a vacuum, but to pursue and experience the best in the world.
Getting Off the Wrong Train
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.
—Richard P. Feynman, Nobel Prize–winning physicist
Enough is enough. Lemmings no more. The blind quest for cash is a fool’s errand.
I’ve chartered private planes over the Andes, enjoyed many of the best wines in the world in between world-class ski runs, and lived like a king, lounging by the infinity pool of a private villa. Here’s the little secret I rarely tell: It all cost less than rent in the United States. If you can free your time and location, your money is automatically worth 3–10 times as much.
This has nothing to do with currency rates. Being financially rich and having the ability to live like a millionaire are fundamentally two very different things.
Money is multiplied in practical value depending on the number of W’s you control in your life: what you do, when you do it, where you do it, and with whom you do it. I call this the “freedom multiplier.”
Using this as our criterion, the 80-hour-per-week, $500,000-per-year investment banker is less “powerful” than the employed NR who works 1?4 the hours for $40,000, but has complete freedom of when, where, and how to live. The former’s $500,000 may be worth less than $40,000 and the latter’s $40,000 worth more than $500,000 when we run the numbers and look at the lifestyle output of their money.
Options—the ability to choose—is real power. This book is all about how to see and create those options with the least ef- fort and cost. It just so happens, paradoxically, that you can make more money—a lot more money—by doing half of what you are doing now.
So, Who Are the NR?
The employee who rearranges his schedule and negotiates a remote work agreement to achieve 90% of the results in one-tenth of the time, which frees him to practice cross-country skiing and take road trips with his family two weeks per month.
* The business owner who eliminates the least profitable customers and projects, outsources all operations entirely, and travels the world collecting rare documents, all while working remotely on a website to showcase her own illustration work.
* The student who elects to risk it all—which is nothing—to establish an online video rental service that delivers $5,000 per month in income from a small niche of HDTV aficionados, a two-hour-per-week side project that allows him to work full-time as an animal rights lobbyist.
The options are limitless, but each path begins with the same first step: replacing assumptions.
To join the movement, you will need to learn a new lexicon and recalibrate direction using a compass for an unusual world. From inverting responsibility to jettisoning the entire concept of “success,” we need to change the rules.
For more information, visit the 4-Hour Workweek website.
Excerpted from "The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich," by Timothy Ferriss. All rights reserved by Timothy Ferriss. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from Crown Publishers.
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